invisible homeless kids

Hard to imagine that in this country way over 3 MILLION kids are without homes. H-O-M-E-L-E-S-S Kids. I don't get it. Are we willing to discard these kids? Not me. So this blog will relentlessly focus on this issue, hoping to light a spark to fuel a compassion epidemic. Chime in, argue, but do something....

Monday, March 7, 2016

Open Letter to Sheila Crowley, Respected Housing Advocate

Dear Sheila,

I think we’ve met. We certainly have walked the same paths, dinosaurs that we both are in the world of housing advocacy. And I think we both want the same thing. But I’m troubled by remarks attributed to you:
‘While representatives of organizations and governments say the definition of homeless should be expanded to increase federal aid for the types of homeless in rural areas, Crowley stressed that without more funding, it would just take money away from helping other homeless living on the streets.’
What will it take for us to get beyond this log-jam of an argument, one that gives elected officials cover for ignoring the skyrocketing homeless population?

I get the math you’re suggesting. But, what I can’t figure is how do we get to Point B, the funding, if we don’t make a case for it? Knowing how slow our federal policy and funding mechanism is, I suggest Point A: get the feds to own the scope of homelessness as it really is--people have lost housing and have nowhere to go--is the vital first step.

Having spent time with doubled up and otherwise homeless/not-HUD-homeless parents and kids over the past 10 years as I’ve traveled backroads of America chronicling homeless families/youth for my nonprofit organization HEAR US,  I can tell you that the suffering they experience is often every bit as bad, or worse, as the people I worked with in my shelter-running days. My Worn Out Welcome Mat series of documentaries lets these families and youth speak for themselves. 

The last thing we need is to pit one group against the other. That’s what seems to be happening on this effort to get HUD to expand the definition of homelessness to include those they’ve managed to exclude--families, youth, and others not counted as homeless. 

My respect for the National Low Income Housing Coalition is profound. My concern is that your position on this issue might be mistaken for agreeing with HUD on their ever-narrowing definition of homelessness that paves the way to their bowing out of their role in ending homelessness. 

We can’t expect Congress to loosen their pursestrings to alleviate homelessness unless we make the case that it’s a need. Millions of homeless families and youth in addition to the uncounted single adults, a number I’d estimate to be at least 7 million, far exceeds the 500,000 HUD reports to Congress.

Having recently spoken to a number of Hill staffers and Congresspersons, I’m appalled at their lack of knowledge of HUD, homelessness, and housing needs of people in poverty and crisis. The NLIHC Out of Reach report provides vital statistics on the extent of the housing  affordability crisis. What we are lacking is a credible account of the scope of homelessness in our country. 

Until we establish a comprehensive definition of homelessness that includes the spectrum of people who have lost housing and have nowhere to go, we will be complicit in the ongoing strategy of ignoring the plight of houseless babies, toddlers, children, youth and adults. That, I suspect, is a point of agreement for both of us.

President/founder HEAR US Inc.